The Meaning in Life
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In this episode we are talking about the “meaning” part of a meaningfully productive life. Although the meaning of our life may change over the years, discovering what makes our lives meaningful can contribute to our productivity and overall happiness. The search for meaning in life I was inspired recently by a thought-provoking conversation with a group of women about purpose and meaning in life. It got me thinking about how this fits into productivity, about what I’ve referred to in past episodes as “meaningful productivity,” and the ongoing conversations about making a life that matters--and what that means. I started researching what has been said about this--how do we find meaning in our lives, and why does it matter? Sources of meaning Surveys by the Pew Research Center asked Americans what makes their lives meaningful, satisfying, or satisfying; the most common answer was family. After that, the surveyors noted that:  “ One-third bring up their career or job, nearly a quarter mention finances or money, and one-in-five cite their religious faith, friendships, or various hobbies and activities. Additional topics that are commonly mentioned include being in good health, living in a nice place, creative activities and learning or education. Many other topics also arose in the open-ended question, such as doing good and belonging to a group or community, but these were not as common.”  The question of meaning Many of us run into questions of meaning and purpose at various milestones in our lives--whether positive or negative milestones:  * Finishing college  * Divorce  * Becoming an empty nester  * Retirement  What these have in common is change. Something that has been a major part of our identity--student, spouse, parent, professional--and gave meaning and purpose to our days has come to an end. And we begin to question that identity and ask ourselves, “Who am I now?” It's a very human question, something universal. Plato offered one definition of humans as “a being in search of meaning.” Why is the question of meaning so universal?  One writer suggests these reasons: “meaning provides a sense of purpose to our lives. According to a research study that looked at meaning in life, the study expressed the positive psychological and physiological benefits linked to humans feeling meaningful. For instance, meaning reduces the risk of mental health problems and improves physical health. Besides the concept that meaning boosts one’s general well-being, the sense of purpose and that life matters and is significant are other reasons why humans look for meaning.”  An article titled Why Meaning in Life Matters for Societal Flourishing cites various studies' conclusions about the importance of meaning: “Meaning in life reflects the feeling that one's existence has significance, purpose, and coherence. A growing body of research identifies meaning in life as a fundamental human need that strongly influences both psychological and physical well-being. Individuals who perceive their lives as full of meaning live longer, healthier, and happier lives than those less inclined to view their lives as meaningful.” (citations omitted but available in the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph) In Man’s Search for Meaning, Jewish-Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl,
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